Like most business tools, professional development has seen a massive shift to the online world in the past year. People are working from home on a global scale like nothing we’ve ever seen before, and large in-person meetings are a distant memory.
Of course, eLearning isn’t new. We’ve been using digital tools to effectively train workforces for more than 20 years. Most corporations now recognize that a blended approach of online, instructor-led, pre-recorded, interactive and micro courses are the best way to teach skills and concepts to an increasingly mobile workforce.
As eLearning moves towards ubiquity, savvy CEOs and HR managers are on the lookout for better ways to integrate technology into their corporate learning model. Enter virtual reality.
Virtual Reality and Learning
People learn better by doing. Virtual reality helps to achieve the feeling of real-life experiences in situations where those experiences aren’t easy to replicate.
It also increases retention in learners. In 2016, a study of students in Beijing showed a VR-enhanced curriculum increased student test scores by as much as 20%. In the right circumstances, VR training can really fine-tune a business’ corporate learning program.
Despite all of the benefits of VR training, many businesses aren’t sure how to get started. Virtual reality feels complicated, expensive and out-of-reach.
In reality, integrating a VR element in corporate training strategies isn’t that different from any other style of learning. Contrary to perception, expensive headsets and other equipment is not needed. VR courses are compatible with everyday devices workers already have, such as smartphones, tablets, laptops or desktop computers.
That just leaves finding appropriate VR content. With modern tools, content creation for virtual reality isn’t as daunting as it seems.
How to Start With VR Training
There are three ways to go about it–outsource the creation, build it in-house, or curate great content from what is already available. Any one of these choices, or a combination of all three, is a fast-track to joining the world of VR training.
The easiest way to get started with VR training is to hire an experienced course designer. Depending on the bandwidth of the organization, taking time out to create an entire course from scratch– VR or otherwise –may not be possible.
An instructional designer comes with the expertise and skills to put together a custom course with all of the right materials and elements to be effective. They can take something mundane, like compliance training, and turn it into a presentation, story or game that engages learners and helps them remember the material.
Letting professionals take the lead usually produces content that is useful, professional and done on time. If the budget allows, outsourcing the creation of a VR course is a great way to get started with practical VR training.
For some smaller businesses, or for training managers who are very interested in the process, creating content from scratch makes the most sense. It’s a common misconception that virtual reality content is expensive or that it requires specialized equipment. This is simply not true.
Building a VR course only requires the right application and a smartphone. To be successful, VR content needs a 360-degree digital environment, interactive elements and assessment tools.
Almost any cell phone has the capability to create a 360 photo. If the option isn’t embedded in the camera function, multiple free or low-cost third party apps like Google Street View, Panorama 360, or Cycloramic will get the job done. Using a tripod produces the best results.
Once the 3D environment is uploaded, integrating interactive elements is as easy as dragging and dropping. It may take some time to arrange everything in a logical, workable manner, but with the right tools, it’s a very simple process.
In the process of building, results should not be an afterthought. How will the learner’s progress be measured? Quizzes, follow up courses and leaderboards are all popular options.
For routine corporate training like workplace safety, harassment prevention or sales, a variety of VR content already exists. If a custom solution isn’t required, one of these off-the-shelf courses is a great way to test out the concept of VR training. The results will show whether or not investing further is worth it.
Buying a pre-built course doesn’t mean surrendering the organization’s goals and identity. Many off-the-shelf courses feature content libraries that allow for deep customization, so that individual courses can be edited to reflect the training program’s specific needs. Branding can also be incorporated into most off-the-shelf VR courses.
Many course libraries offer a free trial period, making it possible to test drive VR content before rolling out a virtual reality module to all employees.
Curating training modules from existing VR content is one of the fastest, most cost-effective solutions available.
No matter which option fits into the budget and timeline, what is clear is that leaving VR training out of the rotation is a bad decision. More than one third of large companies are already using VR in training programs, including some of the largest Fortune 500 brands.
Virtual reality is cost-effective, low-risk, and a great teaching tool. Beyond that, with all of these simple options, getting started with VR is not as difficult as it sounds.
Virtual reality is here, not something that has to wait five or ten years to benefit every kind of business. Savvy training managers will recognize that now is the perfect time to invest in the future of their workforce.Guest Post
About the Guest Author(s)
Andrew Townsend is a leader, storyteller, photographer, marketer, indie film director, author, and father. His areas of expertise include digital media, marketing, and VR integration. He leads the eLearning Brothers Rockstars community, produces webinars, and shares tips on creating immersive video experiences. Andrew has over 20 years of leadership experience in both the workforce and his community. He can often be found hiking with his two sons and wonderful wife while taking pictures of the beautiful Wasatch mountains.